Dinka: Wikis


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AlekWek.jpgFrancisBok.jpgJohn Garang.jpgSalva Kiir Mayardit.jpg
model Alek Wek, author and abolitionist Francis Bok, late politician John Garang, former President Salva Kiir Mayardit
Total population
Approximately 1,000,000
Regions with significant populations



Majority of 75% practice Christianity

Related ethnic groups

Nilotic peoples

The Dinka is a tribe in south Sudan, inhabiting the Bahr el Ghazal region of the Nile basin, Jonglei and parts of southern Kordufan and Upper Nile regions. They are mainly agro-pastoral people, relying on cattle herding at riverside camps in the dry season and growing millet (Awuou) and other varieties of grains (rap) in fixed settlements during the rainy season. They number around 1.5 million people, constituting about 4% of the population[citation needed] of the entire country, and constitute the largest ethnic tribe in South Sudan. Dinka, or as they refer to themselves, Muonyjang (singular) and jieng (plural), are one of the branches of the River Lake Nilotes (mainly sedentary agri-pastoral peoples of East Africa who speak Nilotic languages, including the Nuer and Luo) (Seligman 1965). They are generally one of Africa's darkest-skinned people.[citation needed] Dinka are sometimes noted for their height. With the Tutsi of Rwanda, they are believed to be the tallest people in Africa [2].

The Dinka have no centralised political authority, instead comprising many independent but interlinked clans. Certain of those clans traditionally provide ritual chiefs, known as the "masters of the fishing spear" or "beny bith" (Lienhardt, 1965), who provide leadership for the entire people and appear to be at least in part hereditary.

Their language called Dinka as well as "thuɔŋjäŋ (thuongjang)" is one of the Nilotic family of languages, belonging to the Chari-Nile branch of the Nilo-Saharan family. The name means "people" in the Dinka language. It is written using the Latin alphabet with a few additions.


Pastoral Strategies

An example of dry season site dwellings. Note the conical roofs that are indicative of these Dinka residences.
  • Southern Sudan has been described as “a large basin gently sloping northward (Roth 2003),” through which flow the Bahr el Jebel River, the (White Nile), the Bahr el Ghazal (Nam) River and its tributaries, and the Sobat, all merging into a vast barrier swamp
  • Vast Sudanese oil areas to the south and east are part of the flood plain, a basin in the southern Sudan into which the rivers of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia drain off from an ironstone plateau that belts the regions of Bahr El Ghazal and Upper Nile
  • The terrain can be divided into four land classes:
An example of rainy season temporary settlements. Note the stilts upon which the huts are built to protect against periodic flooding of the region.
    • Highlands—higher than the surrounding plains by only a few centimeters; are the sites for “permanent settlements.” Vegetation consists of open thorn woodland and/or open mixed woodland with grasses
    • Intermediate Lands—lie slightly below the highlands, commonly subject to flooding from heavy rainfall in the Ethiopian and East/Central African highlands; Vegetation is mostly open perennial grassland with some acacia woodland and other sparsely distributed trees
    • Toic—land seasonally inundated or saturated by the main rivers and inland water-courses, retaining enough moisture throughout the dry season to support cattle grazing
    • Sudd—permanent swampland below the level of the toic; covers a substantial part of the floodplain in which the Dinka reside; provides good fishing but is not available for livestock; historically it has been a physical barrier to outsiders’ penetration
  • Ecology of large basin is unique; until recently, wild animals and birds flourished, hunted rarely by the agro-pastoralists (Roth 2003).
An example of a cattle byre. Note the immense size of the structure, indicative of a large investment in resources and labor that would only be found in a more permanent settlement.

The Dinka tribe (or Jieng) has ten subdivisions: Atuot, Aliab, Bor, Chiej, Agar, Gok, Rek, Twij, Malual, and Ngok. Malual is the largest of those groups, numbering over a million people. The Dinka's migrations are determined by the local climate, their agro-pastoral lifestyle responding to the periodic flooding and dryness of the area in which they live. They begin moving around May-June at the onset of the rainy season to their “permanent settlements” of mud and thatch housing above flood level, where they plant their crops of millet and other grain products.

These rainy season settlements usually contain other permanent structures such as cattle byres (luaak) and granaries. During dry season (beginning about December-January), everyone except the aged, ill, and nursing mothers migrate to semi-permanent dwellings in the toic for cattle grazing. The cultivation of sorghum, millet, and other crops begins in the highlands in the early rainy season and the harvest of crops begins when the rains are heavy in June-August. Cattle are driven to the toic in September and November when the rainfall drops off; allowed to graze on harvested stalks of the crops (Deng 1972).

Cultural and Religious beliefs

The Dinka's pastoral lifestyle is also reflected in their religious beliefs and practices (which are not animist in character, contrary to what has been speculated and erroneously propagated in much of the international media). They have one God, Nhialic, who speaks through spirits that take temporary possession of individuals in order to speak through them. The sacrificing of oxen by the "masters of the fishing spear" is a central component of the Dinka. Age is an important factor in Dinka culture, with young men being inducted into adulthood through an initiation ordeal which includes marking the forehead with a sharp object. Also during this ceremony they acquire a second cow-colour name.

Following the war most of the Dinka practice Christianity over 75%, a faith introduced to the region by British missionaries in the 19th century and a lot during the civil war

War with the north and status as refugees

The Dinka's religions, beliefs and lifestyle have led to conflict with the Islamic government in Khartoum. The Sudan People's Liberation Army, led by late Dr. John Garang De Mabior, a Dinka, took arms against the government in 1983. During the subsequent 21-year civil war, many thousands of Dinka, along with fellow non-Dinka southerners, were massacred by government forces. The Dinka have also engaged in a separate civil war with the Nuer.

In November 15, 1991 the Bor Massacre took place in Southern Sudan, triggered by a coup declaration against the then SPLM chairman, the late Dr. John Garang, on August 28, 1991 by the current vice president of the government of Southern Sudan, Dr. Riek Machar. Dr. Machar's forces killed 500 civilians in Bor and wounded the same number in the course of two months. Immediately after came famine since Machar forces looted and burned villages and raided cattle. Another 25,000 people died as a result, according to Amnesty International. Dr. Riek described the incident as "propaganda" and "myth" despite horrific evidence of mass killing shown by bones and corpses in the aftermath of the massacre.

Sizable groups of Dinka refugees may be found in distant lands, including Jacksonville, Florida and Clarkston, a working-class suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, as well as Edmonton in Canada.

The experience of Dinka refugees was portrayed in the documentary movies Lost Boys of Sudan by Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk and God Grew Tired Of Us, Joan Hechts' book The Journey of the Lost Boys and the fictionalized autobiography of a Dinka refugee, Dave Eggers' What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng. Other books on and by the Lost Boys include The Lost Boys of Sudan by Mark Bixler, God Grew Tired of Us by John Bul Dau, and They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky by Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, and Benjamin Ajak. In 2004 the first volume of the graphic novel 'Echoes of the Lost Boys of Sudan'[1] was released in Dallas, Texas, United States, chronicling in art and dialogue four lost boys' escapes from the destruction of their hometowns in Southern Sudan. The Florida ska punk group, Against All Authority refers to the Dinka clan in the song "Dinkas When I Close My Eyes" from their album 24 Hour Roadside Resistance.

Notable Dinka

Among well-known Dinka are:

  • William Deng Nhial (Dengdit), Founder of Sudan African National Union (SANU), Leading figure during the 1st liberation war against the Khartoum government. Assassinated by elements of the Khartoum regime in 1968 allegedly with the help of Bona Malual and Arab politicians who saw him as threat to the peace between Southern Rebels and government of Sudan. William Deng Nhial was told not to go to Southern Sudan but refused to do so which resulted in his death.
  • John Garang, Former First Vice President of Sudan and President of South Sudan, Commander in Chief of Sudan People's Liberation Army and Chairman of Sudan People's Liberation Movement. He died on 30 July 2005 in an air crash which the subsequent investigation blamed on bad weather, but about which conspiracy theories continue to circulate.
  • Abel Alier Kuai Sudanese vice president in the government of the republic of the Sudan in the seventies and eighties. He has a masters degree in law. Served under Numeiri and Sadiq el Mahdi. Helped negotiate the infamous Addis Ababa Agreement which was dishonored by Nimeiri and as a consequent, southern Sudanese officers led by Kuanyin Bol staged a rebellion in Bor, killing Brig. Abdallah Khamis and five senior officers before taking to the bush after five days of fighting, hence, giving birth to SPLM/A.
  • Lt. General Salva Kiir Mayardit, Dr. Garang's successor as First Vice President of Sudan and President of South Sudan, Commander in Chief of Sudan People's Liberation Army and Chairman of Sudan People's Liberation Movement. Lt. General Salva Kiir was in Nairobi when the crash that killed Dr. John Garang occurred. Lt. General Salva Kiir was elected to replace Dr. John Garang after his death. Lt. General Salva Kiir had been a long supporter of Dr. John Garang and he is still loyal to Dr. John Garang's vision. Shockingly, he is presently maintaining close ties with Bona Malual.
  • Kuol Manyang Juuk, the governor of Jonglei State,known for his honesty and courage.
  • Victoria Yar Arol, (- 1980)- Politician, Member of Parliament, Woman Activist and the 1st Southern Sudanese woman to graduate from University. Died in 1980 after a brief illness
  • Jok Madut Jok, Professor of East African History, Loyola Marymount University. Student Activist turned Political Refugee of Second Sudanese Civil War. Expert on Sudanese history and Politics.
  • Alek Wek, a notable fashion model
  • Manute Bol, Former NBA player. one of the two tallest players in the league's history
  • Luol Deng, current NBA player
  • Francis Bok, abolitionist and former slave of ten years - wrote the book, "Escape from Slavery," depicting his conditions and struggles to obtain freedom
  • Lueth Yak, one of the contribtors in Universities and Moral responsibity: "Respecting Humanity at Home and Abroad", Syracuse University
  • Mawut Achiecque Mach de Guarak A former child soldier in Sudan. He is also an active advocate for the independence of Southern Sudan
  • Chut Aleer Deng, a worship leader and song writer. he is also ministering among African church leaders and ministers, as a director of African Leadership Training (ALT) as a part of International Leadership Training (ILT) in USA. he is also working among the Sudanese youth, with the youth office of Refuge Egypt Organization. he has graduated from law school.
  • Ageer Gum (Ageerdit), one of the few well known southern Sudanese women who joined the war of liberation in 1960s. Served as a commander in the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) until she died of natural causes in the late 1990s.
  • Akut Maduot, is a youth leader, founder of South Sudan Next Generation Union organization.
  • Daniel Deng, Civil, Disability and Human Rights Activist and Advocate, Nonprofit Consultant, ICT Consultant, Web and Graphics Designer - Texas, USA
  • Ayak Ring Thiik, Singer
  • Akec Nyal (Modern Folk singer - Brisbane, Australia)
  • Nyankol (Modern Folk singer - Canada)
  • Francis Deng, author, SAIS Research Professor
  • Awino Gam, Sudanese actor. appear in Tears of the sun and Voices of Africa, the Bruce Willis movie base on the Nigerian Biafra war.
  • Mr.Waar-Emmanual Akook is one of the new Southern Sudanese raggae musician.
  • George Kongor Arop, former Sudanese 2nd vice President and a retired Police General.
  • Valentino Achak Deng, a former Lost Boy and subject of What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, a biographical novel written by Dave Eggers.
  • John Bul Dau, one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan", author of God Grew Tired of Us, his autobiography, and subject of the documentary of the same title.
  • Kuek Garang, one of the "Lost Boys", appeared as specialguest on Oprah Show with Peter Bul.
  • Mach Paul Mathiang, one of Dinka intellectual. Member of scholarly honor society and National honor Society. Working to motivated young Bor Intellectual to build Bor University in honor of the great leaders that Bor Community produced such as Justice Abel Alier Kuai, Justice Makuei Lueth Makuei Kaang, Dr. John Garang Mabior, Justice Achol Mawut Mading, Justice Late Manyoun Anyang who was kill in Nasir by Dr. Riak Machar in 90s. His father was a minister during Nemier government in 1960s-80s. Graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice in 2006 and Master of Science in Crime, law and Justice in 2009 from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. Wrote two thesis for his graduate degree; Thesis one; Juvenile Gang Psychology, Theses two; Justice in Traditional Way: A form of Reconciliation and Mediation in Dinka Legal System. Live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in United States Of America.
  • Salva Dut, of Tonj, in Bar-al-Gazal, now a US citizen, living in New York, was one of the Lost Boys. He is founder and president of Water for Sudan, a not-for-profit organization which drills water wells in the remote villages of Southern Sudan. Dut spends half of the year in Sudan overseeing drilling and the rest of the year in the US raising funds and continuing his studies in international development.
  • Gordon Muortat Mayen, is an Anyanya hero who has inspired many and greatly contributed to the liberation struggle of the people of Southern Sudan dedicated all his entire life for the Southerners cause.
  • Judge Martin Majier Gai Ayuel, a notable Dinka lawyer who hailed from a prominent Bor Dinka's South and one of the few intellectuals, who was respected during his time. He was among the first Southern Sudanese who won an award on literature and essay in New York at UN General Assembly competition.
  • Rt. Rev. Nathaniel Garang Anyieth, the Bishop of Bor Diocese who was the only bishop in the SPLA Librated Areas in the last 21 years of struggle among the bishops of Episcopal Chrurch of Sudan.
  • Rt Rev. Peter Bol Arok, the bishop of the Anglican Church of Sudan, who was in the first place served in the Refugee Camps of Itang, Panyudu and Dimo in Ethiopia together with other senior priests namely Rev. Andrew Mayol Ajak and Rev. John Machar Thon Kok
  • Majak Daw, the first Sudanese Australian to be drafted by a senior Australian Football League club. Daw selected with pick 9 in the rookie draft by the North Melbourne Football Club on December 15, 2009. Daw's achievement is all the more notable given he has only been playing the game for four years.[2]
  • (Abraham Ayiec Gob,Student in Daystar University. who is inspired to write about Late John Garang's leadership style during army struggle.
  • Andrew Dinka is a very notable Dinka. He will run for the U.S. presedent in 26 years. vote for him. He is not Obama.

The 1991 Bor Massacre

On November 15, 1991 the event known as the “Bor Massacre” commenced in Southern Sudan. Forces led by the breakaway faction of Riek Machar deliberately killed an estimated 85,000 civilians in Bor and wounded relatively the same number in the course of two months. Famine followed the massacre, as Machar's forces had looted and burnt villages and as well as raiding cattle. An estimated 25,000 more people died as a result of hunger, according to Amnesty International. The Bor massacre was triggered by a coup declaration against the then SPLM chairman, the late Dr. John Garang on August 28, 1991, by the current vice president of the government of Southern Sudan, Dr. Riek Machar. Thousands of civilians in the Bor area died when Dr. Riek's Nuer forces turned against them and killed them after his failure to topple Dr. John Garang. Some people had perished in the Bor areas as determined by the United Nations assessment of causalities in 1992. Dr. Riek described the incident as "propaganda" and "myth" despite horrific evidence of mass killing shown by bones and corpses in the aftermath of the massacre. In his own word recorded in the video, "Sudan Massacre" posted on You Tube, he said that "most of Garang's troops are wiped out in Bor." This is ironic and self implicating because it was the civilians who were wiped out in Bor. Garang's troops which he claimed to have been wiped out in Bor were in deployment in Juba trying to capture the city from the Islamic government. Dr. Riek was also quoted as saying (Sudan Massacre, You Tube) that "I cannot just say kill the Dinka Bor, no, not at all. They're using it as a human rights violation; I'm aware of that. I think it is propaganda." This is a big lie. If he couldn't say "kill the Dinka Bor," who ordered the killings? Whether Riek ordered the killings or his commanders in the fields did it on their own accord, he should be held accountable because he did not discipline his commanders to respect civilians. Apart from Riek himself denying the massacre despite enormous evidence recorded in the media and video tapes, his associates have also attempted to hide the truth, waging a massive propaganda campaign.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Lavell, Steve (15 December 2009). "A touch of Majak" (in English). North Melbourne Football Club. http://www.kangaroos.com.au/season2008/news/newsarticle/tabid/4912/newsid/88198/default.aspx. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  • Chali D. (1995) 'Anthropometric measurements of the Nilotic tribes in a refugee camp', Ethiopian Medical Journal, 33, 4, 211-217.
  • Seligman, C.G. and Brenda Z. Seligman. Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1965.
  • Deng, Francis Mading. The Dinka of the Sudan. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press, Inc., 1972.
  • G. Lienhardt, Divinity and Experience: the Religion of the Dinka. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961
  • Stubbs, J.M. & Morison C.G.T. 'The Western Dinkas, Their land and their agriculture.' Sudan Notes and Records XXI pp 251–266. 1940
  • Jok Madut Jok Published Material: http://unjobs.org/authors/jok-madut-jok

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Proper noun


  1. A tribe of southern Sudan.
  2. The Nilo-Saharan language spoken by these people.

External links


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